“The idea of travel has excited me ever since I picked up my first kids’ book about a traveling rabbit and his (mis)adventures abroad. Since then, I’ve learned that ‘travel’ can mean many things to many people; I didn’t want to advocate for tourism. I wanted to take a stance to encourage people to go deeper, stay longer, and be more intentional.”
In early 2016, Megan Lee, the Director of GoAbroad.com, was struck with an idea: what if we could use to the power of the internet to mobilize a large group of people to commit to more intentional travel? What could that look like?
“While you can learn a thing or two simply by entering and observing foreign communities, without thoughtful intentions and purposeful reflection/conversations, travelers end up wasting the learning opportunity at hand.”
Born shortly after was the GoAbroad Meaningful Travel Manifesto, a public forum for individuals to pledge their commitment to more meaningful travel. We sat down with Megan to talk more about the campaign and what drove the team to launch it.
Isn’t the term “meaningful travel” a subjective, throw-around catchphrase at best?
At GoAbroad, we aim to own this phrase and define it fully. Meaningful travel encompasses actions that mutually benefit both the traveler and the host community. It focuses on more than general tourism: cultural immersion and educational takeaways are key. It can be done solo, with a group, or through an organization/program.
In an ideal world, meaningful travel becomes an attitude and a lifestyle, influencing a traveler’s day-to-day decisions as they interact with others in foreign places. While you can derive meaning from any trip or travel, meaningful travel – as a concept – refers to more immersive experiences. It all comes back to intentions.
It’s an active process that happens before, during, AND after your travels.
How do you see meaningful travel relating to global citizenship?
There is some overlap between meaningful travel and global citizenship. Meaningful travel can be a leap towards becoming the enlightened and effective change-maker global citizenry aims to cultivate. While the shedding of national identities or allegiances to ethnicities and political beliefs isn’t necessary, global citizens – and meaningful travelers – take their individual responsibility seriously in contributing to the global good.
What’s GoAbroad’s overarching goal with the Meaningful Travel Manifesto campaign?
Our goals are three-fold. One, we want to get people thinking more about how to engage mindfully with others while traveling. Two, we’d like our users to feel empowered to make small changes that have big impacts. And three, we’d love to have a minimum of 10,000 individuals sign and commit to its core values. Can you imagine that many passports in community this way?! It gives me goosebumps.
We’ve created a Facebook group to elicit ongoing conversations and discussions surrounding these topics and how we can take our commitment seriously.
Any parting words?
While we’d love for as many people to sign it as possible, we also hope that pledges take their commitments seriously and get others excited about it, too. Maybe this is a new mindset or maybe it’s a new framework for understanding the mindset you already have.
Remember: going abroad isn’t enough. You have to go with intentions, an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a serious consciousness towards strrreeeeetching that comfort zone.